Defense Business Brief: US arms deals with Australia rise; One-on-one with new L3Harris exec; Marine Corps AH-1Z production ends; and more.
In addition to having a cool name, Jon Rambeau became president of L3Harris Technologies’ Integrated Mission Systems business last month. He replaced Sean Stackley, the former Navy acquisition chief who is now L3Harris’ senior vice president of strategy and growth.
After 26 years in various roles at Lockheed Martin, Rambeau said he was not looking to make a career move, but was attracted by L3Harris CEO Chris Kubasik’s vision to make the company a “trusted disruptor.”
“It's about thinking differently [and] it's about bringing innovation to the table, not just from within our company, but from others out there as well, whether it's in the traditional defense industry or more on the commercial side,” Rambeau said. “How do you bring all that innovation to bear to be more agile, to get ahead of our customers’ needs, and really anticipate what they're going to be needing so that we can move more quickly and provide [these] capabilities in a disruptive way, sometimes for much more affordable costs on a shorter timeline.”
With the U.S. facing increased peer-level threats from Russia and China, there are “certain areas where we absolutely have to move a little bit differently than we might have in the past to make sure that we are keeping pace and staying ahead,” Rambeau said. “I'm focused on unlocking the potential of the trusted disrupter vision.”
Rambeau oversees airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; distributed maritime operations; and the company’s electro-optical sensors.
In the ISR business, which is the lead integrator for the RC-135 and EC-37 Air Force intelligence aircraft, Rambeau said he’s noticing a “trend away from the larger platforms” toward “missionized business jets” in the future.
“One of the things that we're really focused on is making the investments that are necessary to be able to move more swiftly to feel capabilities,” he said of that shift.
Uncrewed technology “is a big area of focus” for the company, as the U.S. Navy develops a teaming strategy for ships with and without sailors, Rambeau said. L3Harris’ partnership with Shield Capital could prove beneficial to invest in small companies “to extend our reach a little bit, and take advantage of the investments that those companies are making and how we can blend those in with our capabilities.”
While he’s only been with the company for a few weeks, Rambeau said he’s been “impressed with how quickly we can get from consensus around a conference table to actually putting something into action.”
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Across the pond, the Royal Air Force doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its F-35 fighters, Sky News reports. The problem involves the RAF not being able to train its pilots in a timely manner, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament. The U.K. has 27 F-35s, but only 33 pilots to fly them, Aviation Week reports.
Still, the UK is moving forward with plans to buy 74 jets for its two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers by the end of the decade. “The announcement comes at a time of great change in the global security environment, as the UK is still seeking to reaffirm its position in the defense industry in a post-Brexit world,” Global Data analyst Madeline Wild said in a note to investors. “The financial importance of the F-35 and other programs should not be understated, with allies such as the U.S. placing great value on the economic commitment to defense demonstrated by the U.K.”
The U.K. plans to spend about $11.7 billion on the F-35 over the next 10 years, Wild wrote. About 15 percent of F-35s parts are made in the United Kingdom. The Royal Air Force flies the F-35B, which can take off from short runways, like a small-deck aircraft carrier, and land vertically.
Heading down under, the U.S. State Department approved a $6.35 billion sale of 24 C-130J cargo planes to Australia. “The strategic location of this political and economic power contributes significantly to ensuring peace and economic stability in the region,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the arm of the Pentagon that oversees foreign arms sales, said in a statement. The U.S. has approved 16 arms deals for Australia worth $18 billion since January 2021, according to the Forum on the Arms Trade. That’s way up from six deals worth a total of $3.15 billion approved for Canberra in 2019 and 2020. The U.S has been deepening its defense ties with Australia, in part to counter China in the Pacific. In September 2021, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed the trilateral AUKUS pact that is expected to result in Australia getting nuclear-powered submarines.
The bids are in for the next phase of the U.S. Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle, the troop carrier intended to replace the decades-old Bradley. BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Oshkosh, Point Blank Enterprises, and Rheinmetall all submitted bids, according to Breaking Defense. All five companies had previously been awarded Army design contracts. Now, the Army plans to buy prototypes from up to three of the bidders. A decision is expected next year. The Army isn’t expected to choose a sole winner until 2027.
Bell has delivered the final AH-1Z Viper attack helicopter to the U.S. Marine Corps, the 189th to come off the company’s Amarillo, Texas, assembly line. That assembly line remains active building AH-1Zs for Bahrain. It will also build eight UH-1Ys and four AH-1Zs for the Czech Republic next year, according to Bell.
Teledyne FLIR Defense announced it has developed a new drone sensor that can detect radioactive material. “[T]he R430 enables users to quickly pinpoint and accurately identify sources of radioactivity from a distance,” the company said.
Meanwhile, the Army awarded Norway’s Kongsberg a $1.5 billion deal for its Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, known as CROWS. The company has delivered more than 18,000 CROWS systems to the U.S. military. The new contrat will allow the Pentagon to “fully realize the investments made in the Tech Refresh systems and bring those capabilities to new and existing customers both in the U.S. and abroad,” Eirik Tord Jensen, executive vice president for Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace Land Systems division, said in a statement. “The Tech Refresh systems are designed to provide greater stand-off, increased precision, and networking capabilities, as well as vastly improved situational awareness in addition to being backwards compatible.”
Leidos has completed its acquisition of Cobham Aviation Services Australia’s Special Mission business. The business will operate as Leidos Australia. “The acquisition of Cobham Special Mission represents Leidos’ entry into the Australian aviation market, utilizing state of the art command and control systems and sensors on board aircraft to deliver mission critical outcomes for the Australian Government,” Leidos said in a statement.
Making moves: The Printed Circuit Board Association of America on Nov. 2 named David Schild as the association’s first executive director. The consortium supports U.S. domestic production of printed circuit boards. Schild is the founder and managing partner of Three Rivers Strategies.